Is the Right Turning Obama into the "Other"?
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Food for Thought
It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America's power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe's resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.
Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.
Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
The latest controversy over Mr. Obama’s identity involves — once again — Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, who this week accused Mr. Obama, whose father was a Kenyan economist and spoke out against the occupying force in his country, of exhibiting “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.” Mr. Gingrich was shorthanding an essay in Forbes by the conservative theorist Dinesh D’Souza, who, in exploring Mr. Obama’s attitudes toward business, settled on the theory that Mr. Obama was taking directions from the anticorporate apparition of his long-departed father. (That Mr. Obama never really knew his father is apparently beside the point.)...
This cultural critique of Mr. Obama — a general portrayal of otherness based on his age and ideology, his upbringing and, inescapably, his race — is reminiscent of similar attacks on Bill Clinton, whom 1990s-era conservatives reveled in depicting as a symbol of the socially permissive, self-indulgent hippie left....
Going back to the 1960s, the modern conservative movement has been an amalgam of three distinct factions: the champions of free enterprise, the foreign policy types often described as neoconservatives, and the social conservatives who became the spine of the party’s grass-roots campaign apparatus.
It was a fear of communism that nicely unified all of these groups in the cold war years. The Soviet Union and its satellites were Marxist in their economic outlook, expansionist in their foreign policy and defiantly godless in their culture. Stan Lee could not have dreamed up a more perfect nemesis around which Republicans could coalesce....
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george tenent - 9/19/2010
you are so insane I can' even reply to this
Centrist - 9/18/2010
I wouldn’t say “the right” is trying to “other” Obama. I would say some elements on the right appear to be doing that. But even there, it’s not easy to discern how much of that is calculated. By that, I mean some of that seems a perhaps cynical tactical choice by some right-leaning opinionators or thought leaders. I find that tactical choice to be insulting to conservatives, as it seems based on a belief that fear and anxiety rather than appeals to honor and integrity are the best way to get people to side with you. For better or worse, some on the right simply seem to view their natural ideological allies as wimps who react automatically to the pushing of the “be afraid” button. They’re tactics seem to be premised on “if you’re on the right, you can’t cope with someone being different than you.” Which is pretty emasculating, if you think about it.
But that doesn’t mean all of the “othering” is as insulting and artificial for the right as it might seem. There are people who simply are expressing their own natural, organic reactions to a man who is of a different party or race than themselves. He doesn’t seem “like us.” Even there, one can find differences. One can accept that someone is different but still as American as oneself, or one can lump everything he or she does into one big basket of “danger.” That’s not necessarily a characteristic of conservatives, however. There are people on the left who “other” social conservatives as repressed, punitive, authortarians eager to whip everyone who disagrees with them into submission. That sort of “othering” of social conservatives and some members of the religious right is as unfair to some conservatives as the “othering” of Obama is to him. Doing that is just the way some people roll. On both sides, it can be calculated or not. Or stem from ignorance or shouting "lalala, I can't hear you" when someone from the opposite side tries to urge greater discernment.
John a Wilson - 9/18/2010
To try to understand Obama is neither racist or ignorant. Obama is trying to remake America and its important to try to understand his agenda.
Ron Pagnucco - 9/17/2010
As a student of politics in Kenya and the US, it is very clear that the US right-wing is engaging in a version of the tactics similar to the "othering," divide and mobilize along ethnic/ racial lines (sometimes called "tribalism") that we have been seeing in Kenya. Of course, as Richard Hofstadter has taught us, the Paranoid Stle of American Poliics is not really a Kenyan import, but quite home grown -- but cross-cultural, cross-national! Independent invention, not diffusion, one might say :)
Abigail - 9/16/2010
I think that's very much the case. The GOP has a long standing strategy of portraying anyone who isn't in their party as un-American in some way or another. It's one of the ways they frame the debate; by defining what isn't American, they are able to strongly influence public opinion about what *is* American. Obama is a particularly rich target for them because his race already makes him frightening to many people. If we were doing a better job, the Dems could respond by portraying his story as that of a second generation immigrant made good; that's a quintessential American story if ever there was one. Unfortunately, at the moment we are instead letting them control the dialectic. Our response of "that's stupid and racist," while valid and satisfying, tends to make people who are a bit worried about him feel defensive and try to justify their concern. After all, almost no one wants to admit they're a racist, even a little bit.